Venice Duck Brewery
In Venice, California, “local” is almost the secret password. Living or working in its bounds does not make one an ipso facto local. In Venice, local is not so much geography as a vibe and a way of being. It is tough to describe but impossible not to recognize when you are here. Both mellow and yet somehow unmistakably in your face, it defines the wide diversity of the locals who comprise Venice in the shared experience of being… well, a local.
Being “a local” might best be defined as understanding what being a local means. You know you are one when the locals call you “a local.” As I said, it’s almost a password here. Obviously, being “brewed locally,” does not make a local beer. But, Venice Duck Brewery has cracked the code. It is undoubtedly Venice’s local beer.
Meet the Founders
It goes without saying that a local Venice beer must be brewed by Venice locals. Enter Christian Warren and John Binder, two local guys, friends for 20 years and longtime bartenders at legendary James Beach bar in Venice, who themselves are beer guys. They decided in 2001 that not only would they like to own a brewery, but that Venice needed a local brewery.
As big ideas often do, it incubated for several years until, so to speak, the duck hatched.
Meet the Ducks
So why Venice Duck? There’s a local story behind that.
Venice was founded as a mashup of Venice, Italy and Coney Island, including a canal system. Some of that system remains. The neighborhood surrounding it, which locals call simply, “the canals,” is also home to Venice’s local ducks. As Warren tells it, a mutual friend of his and Binder’s went to a party in the canals, where things got a bit sloppy, and he woke up in a canal . . . covered with ducks.”
It sparked the name: “Whenever we kicked around names for our brewery, we kept coming back to the ducks,” Warren explains, “The ducks are the longest standing locals in Venice.” So Venice Duck Brewery was named.
Currently, Venice Duck brews three beers, its flagship IPA, an agave blond, and a hemp brown ale. As the brewery itself, each is named for an unmistakably local Venice Duck character. And, as Venice itself, each brew is complex yet unassuming, distinctive yet mellow.
More important to Sommbeer readers, each Venice Duck label is an outstanding beer.
Meet Dogtown Duck, the radical skater dude duck.
BJCP Category: 14B American IPA
ABV: 6.8% IBU: 90-95 SRM: 10-12
Paying homage to Venice’s skate culture, Dogtown Duck is a West Coast IPA. Definitely hoppy, Dogtown Duck is a blend of citra and simcoe hops with enough malt structure to provide a depth for the hops, which are the star here. There is a distinct bitterness but not one that crosses over into “session” IPA territory. One Dogtown Duck makes you want a second.
Meet Lucky Duck, the Abbot Kinney duck.
BJCP Category: 6B Blonde Ale
ABV: 5.3% IBU: 19-21 SRM: 4-5
Bearing a striking similarity to Venice’s founder Abbot Kinney, who originally won the land on a coin toss in 1898, envisioned and built its canal system, Lucky Duck, is an entirely mild ale, light and refreshing. It is what I tend to call, “wet, yellow beer,” but with an undertone of Venice of America hops and agave nectar, it is a sweetish brew with a hoppy note and crispy finish. Warren called it a “gateway to craft beer.” I agree.
Meet Stoner Duck, ‘nuff said.
BJCP Category: 10C American Brown Ale
ABV: 5.6% IBU: 28-32 SRM: 24-26
No local beer line up would be complete without a nod to marijuana. And Stoner Duck does it perfectly. This nut brown ale brewed with organic hemp is my personal favorite Venice Duck label and the one connected to my own story of understanding local. There is the definite toasted malts flavor you would expect to carry the day complimented perfectly by a strong caramel flavor and a sublte undercurrent of chocolate.
Brown ales are my favorite beers and Stoner Duck is among my very favorites. I’m not alone. It won honorable mention at this years prestigious Los Angeles International Beer Festival. I asked Warren if the hemp was what made such a complex brown ale so drinkable and mellow. He said, “It usually mellows things out, doesn’t it?” Local guys, talking local beer.
Try the Duck
For the beer enthusiast, any trip to Los Angeles, particularly Venice, requires an experience with Venice Duck Brewery. With plans for a single malt/single hop duck and a Belgian duck and visions of a local tasting room, Venice Duck is an active member of the community, considering itself the unofficial sponsor of Venice events and the locals “its flock,” that promises to be the local beer here for a long time.
Find bar, restaurant, and retail locations and more information on the Ducks at www.veniceduckbrewery.com #FindtheDuck on twitter (@VeniceDuck).